Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Reproducing Stained Glass Kitchen Cabinets

Back in October, I was asked to bid on a stained glass commission to recreate 4 beveled kitchen cabinet panels. The panels were in a home which had been devastated by a fire.  I recently got the go-ahead to begin the work and I completed the four panels about two weeks ago.  The contractor had me deliver them this week, while his installer was on site. The newly reconstructed kitchen has come a long way since my first visit. I'm pleased for the homeowners that they'll soon be able to return to their home.  Here is the process of recreating the panels shown below.

The top two photos were taken by the homeowners before the fire.  They served as an excellent record for me to follow.  There are two pairs of panels.  One pair is 11" x 29", the other is 14" x 29".

 Notice the beautiful colored gems at the center of the panels. 

 Here's the kitchen on our initial site visit while it was undergoing renovations.  My husband Eric took all the pertinent measurements so that I could begin constructing the patterns for the panels.

As shown, each of these panels is surrounded by clear bevels.  Since the bevels cannot be cut, they present a design challenge.  The clear "Artique" background glass and the gems must be placed onto the pattern after the bevels are all in place.  In order to recreate these windows, I needed to locate 2" x 9" bevels which are available from only one supplier. I began by making a full-size outline of the outer border of each of the two sizes of panels.

Then, using a "fence" or "jig", I made a metal border around the edge so that the glass would not shift.  I carefully laid all of the various sizes of bevels into their place on the "cartoon" or paper pattern.  Each of the four panels required three 40mm jewels in Rose, Light Amber and Amethyst, four 1" x 2" corner bevels, six 2" x 9" bevels, and either two 1" x 10" bevels or two 1" x 7" bevels depending on the width of the panel.
 
 After each bevel was laid in place, I made a "sandwich" of a manila folder, carbon paper and the cartoon.  I then traced the pattern as shown.  Then I cut the outside border with regular scissors, and I cut the pattern pieces apart using stained glass cutting shears.  As shown below, these are double-bladed scissors which cut out a thin strip of paper between each piece.  This thin area will be taken up by the copper foil which will be applied later.

Notice that each piece of the pattern is given a unique letter and number.  I use a black Sharpie pen to write the pattern letter and number onto each piece of glass.  This is to prevent duplication of any pieces cut and serves to keep the entire project organized. Good pattern organization is essential, especially when working with pieces such as these, which are similar in size and shape. 
 Below, I've traced the pattern onto a piece of clear Artique glass.  This glass is transparent and has random lines running through it to mimic antique glass.  It is an excellent choice for this application.
 Straight cuts are made by resting a flat ruler alongside the traced line.  I then used an oil-filled pistol grip cutter, pressed at a 90 degree angle onto the glass, to score it.  (My left hand would be pressing down on the ruler but in this case, I'm holding the camera).  After the glass is scored, I tap repeatedly along the score line until the glass "loosens" and can be readily snapped in two.
 After each piece of glass is cut, the edges are ground with an electric grinder.  The purple sponge wicks up water from the reservoir which is beneath the cutting surface.  I'm wearing rubber fingers, found at any Staples or Office Depot.  These serve to protect my fingers from cuts and also help me to keep a firm grip on the wet glass.

Here is one of the panels, fully cut, labeled, and set in the "jig".  The pieces fit well, but not too snugly.  There should be a small amount of movement between the pieces.

Now I'm applying the "black back", self-adhesive copper foil to the center of the edge of each piece.  When using clear glass, "black back" is the foil of choice if the patina will be dark.   After the panel is soldered and the patina is applied, the copper foil will become all but invisible inside the glass.
 Here I'm using a "fid" or flexible plastic want to press the copper foil onto the glass, on the edges, the front, and the back.  This is to prevent any fluid or chemicals from leaking under the foil.

Here is the panel after each piece has been removed, copper foiled, and replaced onto the cartoon.

 While the glass is all still in the "jig", I'm brushing the copper foil with liquid flux.  Flux is an agent which promotes proper soldering.  A light coating of it is sufficient.  Too much will cause the solder to bubble.

 Now I begin the "tack-soldering" process.  I'm soldering a small amount to the intersections of all the glass, just enough to anchor all the glass and prevent it from shifting.  I'm using 60/40 (tin/lead) solder, which is the preferred ratio for stained glass use.  Whenever I solder, I wear a lead-protectant face mask.  I also use a carbon filter fan to disperse harmful fumes. Safety first.



 As soon as the glass is "tack soldered", I removed the "jig" and carefully slide the "cartoon" out from below.  This will protect it from the chemicals and liquids which follow.


 Here is one of the four panels, fully soldered on the front.  I do not apply copper foil or solder to the borders, in order to facilitate the attachment of the metal frame or "channel".

 Here my husband Eric has cut lengths of 3/8" zinc "channel" to the border of each panel.  He saws mitered corners to the entire frame, for a neat appearance and added strength.

After he attaches the frame, he re-installs the "jig" to press the frame against the glass.  Then I go in and solder the mitered corners.  I also solder the lead lines to the frame, particularly on the back of the panel where it cannot be seen. These extra solder points help secure and strengthen the panel.
 After the entire piece has been soldered, front and back, I spray wash it with "Kwik-Clean" which is a stained glass product used in the removal of flux and patina.  As an extra precaution, I washed each panel with powdered cleanser and an old dish brush as shown.  I'm wearing rubber gloves to protect my hands against the harsh chemicals.

 To assist the installer, I've tagged the top of each panel with tape and markings to indicate the proper orientation.

This newly renovated kitchen has very warm elements, including dark bronze cabinet hardware.  In order to complement those colors, I custom mixed Novacan "Copper Brite" patina with Novacan Black patina.  Then I tested it on tinned copper foil until I arrived at a ratio of color which best represented a dark bronze.

 Here's the bronze patina on the solder.  The zinc frame accepts patina differently than the solder, and it appears black.  This will largely be hidden under the frame of the cabinet.

 After the patina is applied and allowed to set, I spray washed the panels again using "Kwik-Clean".  I then went over each panel repeatedly with a de-greaser and a window cleaner to remove all streaks.  Then I applied "Livia" stained glass finishing compound.  This product is a light wax which serves to protect the patina and give the glass a nice shine.  An occasional dusting or light cleaning should be all the maintenance these panels will need.

 Here is one of the completed panels, shown against a white background.
 This view shows a bit more of the texture of the glass.
Here the contractor's lovely assistant is modeling the installation of one of the four new panels.  I'm very pleased to have been part of the team who is working hard to get this family back into their home after the fire.  Thank you Groundswell Contracting for calling me in to assist you.  It was my pleasure!
To view another project where I reproduced kitchen cabinet panels, please click here. 

Next ... For the past several weeks, I've been working on a series of custom stained glass birds for a customer in Omaha.  I'll be posting about this commission soon, as well as a second commission for a larger bird-themed window.

Please visit my website to see my custom windows and repairs (click here).  And if you are on FaceBook, become a fan and I'll keep you up to date on all my stained glass projects.  Call me any time at 201-600-1616 or email with your questions. Thanks!

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